When Quantico reveals its secrets and twists, they don’t evoke feelings of excitement, amusement, or surprise, they evoke feelings of exasperation, and sometimes relief. So many elements of Quantico’s plot feel like big, heavy chunks of nonsense dangling over the story, when one of them suddenly comes crashing down, it means there’s one less nonsensical chunk to worry about. And there’s less to worry about after “Quantico,” which is a veritable rock slide of silly twists and goofy reveals that make for an extremely clunky episode, but at least help to snuff out a couple of the unanswered questions that have made the show seem egregiously overstuffed. There are still far too many characters, elements, and points in time in the mix, but the reveals give the illusion that Quantico is calming down and flattening out, and that feels promising even when the episode itself is deeply ridiculous. And man, is it ever ridiculous.

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The present day storyline still feels more interesting and more urgent, what with the second bomb, which is set to go off within days if not hours. While I’ve been waiting for someone at the FBI to figure out that Alex is being framed, with Liam on board and Alex and Miranda back in the fold, some of the tension has leaked out of the story. Fugitive stories move briskly because the characters are constantly on the move as they try to evade capture, and there was that illusion of momentum when Alex was still out in the cold. With Alex’s team reunited, Liam aligned with them, and Miranda freed from her makeshift holding cell, there isn’t as much to do or enough places to go, and the pace instantly feels slower. But “Quantico” does retain the idea that everyone is still a suspect, which is important to the show’s ability to generate suspense, and gets a bit lost in the shuffle once Alex is reunited with all of her friends from training camp.

Liam and Miranda know better than to trust anyone, including the people closest to you, so they argue in favor of tailing each member of the team to either smoke out the culprit, or at least buy themselves some peace of mind while they search for the second bomb. Simon is eventually outed due to his relationship with his bomb-making friend, but he didn’t plan the Grand Central bombing, he just planned a similar attack with a faulty bomb that would be simple enough for the authorities to thwart. Once such an attack was stopped, according to Simon’s childlike thought process, everyone would wake up and start talking to each other, which would finally yield peace. It’s a fundamentally ridiculous plan and should probably get Simon immediately arrested for treason and turn everyone in the room against him, but he’s somehow able to land some parting shots on Alex before he heads home. The moment probably calls for Simon to just shut up and realize how insanely guilty he looks. Instead, he calls out Alex for betraying the team with the surveillance rather than trusting them, and the rest of the team shares in his indignation.

It’s a scene that speaks to how difficult it is to pull off the “Grey’s Anatomy meets Homeland” concept effectively. Everything the NATs are learning in training camp—trusting each other, trusting themselves, not turning on each other under stress—are lessons the doctors at Seattle Grace learn anew each time a train derails or the roof of a building collapses. It’s easy to shoehorn those kinds of lessons, along with the romantic subplots and dark secrets, into a medical setting. But that formula doesn’t want to fit on Quantico, which needs to be considerably more grounded and less overtly soapy because it’s dealing with a formal, bureaucratic, security-focused environment and plays with the war on terror, a topic that never leaves the zeitgeist. Quantico’s problems are somewhat conceptual, not just a matter of clumsy execution. This show definitely is succeeding at being part-Grey’s, part-Homeland, but it’s beginning to look like that was a faulty recipe to begin with. It has all the impact of Simon’s fake bomb.

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Simon’s unceremonious departure from Quantico is the focus of the flashback story, which also finds Alex calling out Nathalie on the fake tattoo she’s been applying since they began. Both of these reveals depend on the hilarious informality of the Quantico training program, which is loose enough that Ryan can hang out as long as he wants to audit classes and freshen up his skills, while Shelby can send millions of dollars to the Middle East and deflect suspicion for so long. Simon and Nathalie are both called out in front of the group, which is certainly more dramatic than a meeting behind closed doors, but rings totally false. Poor Nathalie has to have her classmates watch as she sits before a full-blown tribunal to explain why she’s applying scar make-up every day. The convoluted explanation has to do with her abusive ex and her desperate methods to ensure custody of their child, but even she admits there’s no real reason to keep applying the scar now other than to remind herself of the sacrifice she made leaving her daughter behind to become an agent.

Simon gets called out for his involvement with the Israeli Defense Forces, and he initially claims he was only a translator, but later concedes he was involved in the torture and murder of innocents. He would lure women, presumably with his irresistible looks and furry chest, so his deranged superior could question them about the whereabouts of their husbands. Nimah, who is not feeling Simon ever since the twins came out, says he’s a war criminal. But that’s not why he gets drummed out of Quantico. That happens because of the fight he got into with Ryan weeks back, which I only vaguely remember. Tate Ellington has been giving a forceful performance as Simon, and he manages to sell most of what he’s given to work with through sheer force of will, because God knows it makes no sense at all.

It also doesn’t make sense that he’s being kidnapped at the end of the episode by what looks like Elias, but it’s too much to ask at this point for Quantico to make sense. All I can ask is that it continues to scrub out the plot elements that most insult my intelligence, because even if it replaces those elements with new, just as stupid ones, at least there’s the novelty factor.

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Stray observations

  • The other NATs didn’t think too kindly of Simon after finding out he allowed Langdon to escape. Seems like they were right to suspect him.
  • Shelby, it turns out, doesn’t have a half-sister, just a con woman using Shelby’s longing for family against her.
  • No word on Charlie yet. He’s probably off listening to heavy metal somewhere.

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